From the Earth: Advancing Food Sovereignty with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community

September 13, 2023
The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians’ From the Earth project is increasing access to traditional foods like these Stockbridge Beans using sustainable growing methods with support from a Research and Education grant. Photo courtesy of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.

In northeastern Wisconsin, the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe has been working to bolster self-reliance with food sourcing and encourage more local food production.

In 2018, a group of Stockbridge-Munsee Community (SMC) producers and educators were preparing to expand their half-acre community garden into a learning space to demonstrate sustainable food production. They applied for and received a SARE Research and Education grant to support the project.

“We believe that if we can teach individuals a variety of techniques on sustainably producing vegetables, document the cost associated with each technique, demonstrate the importance of incorporating all aspects of the environment, and share our project findings in ways that are easily accessible, then the number of individuals producing these goods will increase,” explained Kellie Zahn, a farmer and the SMC Agriculture Agent who originally proposed the SARE grant project in 2018.

The Keek-Oche or “From the Earth” group set up growing trials and demonstrations. They planned outreach events like grower workshops and field days where they shared hands-on learning and resources on beekeeping, traditional growing methods such as Three Sisters gardening, and vegetable growing and preservation. In addition to in-person events, they developed videos and fact sheets to create a long-term support system. 

The food sovereignty project that started with 4,250 pounds of produce harvested from a half-acre learning farm at the beginning of the project has grown. The farm expanded, and community interest increased. In 2022, From the Earth harvested more than 13,550 pounds of produce from six acres and two high tunnels. They now have two ag apprentices who help with farming and beekeeping, along with volunteers. They regularly share produce throughout the community via a CSA farm-box program, a weekly farm market, and donations to the Elderly Center, Head Start, and the Ella Besaw Center.

They grew a variety of crops, including traditional crops like Lenape Blue Corn, Stockbridge Beans, Lenape Blue Beans, and Boston Marrow Squash. The Stockbridge Bean was reunited with the community in Wisconsin after a historic preservation team located the seed in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, many years ago. SMC growers have been growing and saving the seeds from this traditional variety for their community and their seed bank. 

“In 2022, we could share the Stockbridge Bean as part of the CSA box. It is absolutely humbling that the farm can assist that connection to the Tribe’s journey and history,” said SMC’s current agriculture manager, Maria Duits, who started as a farm apprentice in 2022. 

Overall, 79% of community members and local farmers surveyed said they have raised more vegetables, fruits, or bees since 2018. 

“The successful framework created throughout this project will continue with every growing season and forever impact food production in this community,” said Duits. “The community has expressed interest in continuing to hold on-farm demonstrations of Mohican and sustainable farming techniques. Our goal is to continue sharing this knowledge as we grow and learn on the farm.”

Dig Deeper

View From the Earth’s grower resources and videos online at https://www.mohicanag.com/education

See updates from the farm on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FromtheEarthFarmSMC/.
----
NCR-SARE’s Research and Education grant program starts accepting proposals in mid-August. Learn more here: https://northcentral.sare.org/Grants/.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant:

Topics: Seed Saving, Sustainable Communities
Related Locations: North Central, Wisconsin